“One year ago tonight I had my last drink,” were the first words in my friend Tonya’s post. She described her daily habit of drinking alcohol and said, a few paragraphs later, “I hated that…I couldn’t quit…I wasn’t strong enough to just forget about it. I hated that saying no to drinking felt like I would be saying no to living life fully.” “What is a stronghold?” someone might ask. She had one.
The meaning of strongholds
Natalie Regoli, an author on the Connect Us website, says there are 70 mentions of the word stronghold in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
A lot of these mentions are literally about fortresses, forts, and fortified cities with big gates and huge, thick walls. The main definition of a stronghold actually is a high-walled fort. I was amazed when I went to Old Jerusalem and walked up on top of the city walls around it with several friends side by side – the wall around the ancient city is that wide.
So, there’s a positive meaning to “stronghold.” It’s a massive structure in which you can be protected. God is even called a stronghold, or a fortress in whom we can hide:
“The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” says Psalm 27:1 NIV
However, there’s also a negative meaning to the word stronghold. I love how Max Lucado frames it in his article on strongholds. He starts with two questions, “Does one prevailing problem stalk your life? Where does Satan have a hook in you?” And then he says, “Some are prone to cheat. Others quick to doubt. Maybe you worry…What is that one weakness, bad habit, or rotten attitude [that entraps you]?”
A spiritual stronghold, a stronghold of the mind, is a habit or an attitude that is entrenched in you, around you. You can’t seem to stop it – whether it is daily drinking like my friend so honestly spoke about, overeating, spending money you don’t have, yelling at your kids too easily. A stuck place like this is a prison, not a fortress of protection. And within it, you feel trapped.
The worst of it is, a stronghold is often something that you have put in the place of God – something to soothe or satisfy yourself. It’s, as the Bible says, an idol. Your eyes are on IT for relief, and not God.
The last piece of cake
So…at this point, I need to confess. I recognize that food has been a stronghold for me.
Yep, I’ve struggled too. No, I am not grossly overweight, but I have about 15 pounds of unneeded weight. For a long time, I’ve excused myself, “I’ll never be able to lose that! Why, I have 5 grandkids! I’m older, therefore, it’s just too hard.”
I had to laugh the other night. I just happened to see a very old tv sitcom – the Donna Reed show. In this episode, Donna (Stone) realized a favorite dress was too tight. She started trying to exercise the extra pounds away, but her husband suggested, “Why not just stop eating candy and desserts for a month?”
Making a cake for the family’s dinner, Donna salivated as her kids ate three pieces each, and her husband, also had a big share in front of her. One small piece was left which she reluctantly put in the refrigerator. Later that night, she snuck down and her struggle with getting the cake and resisting it was truly comic. She managed to win, only because her doctor husband came home from a late night shift and – ate the cake!
How can you win over a bad habit (especially if you don’t have a Dr. Stone in the house?) Here are three ideas:
1. Change your mind, lose the stronghold
I had coffee with a friend recently and she has, with diligence, lost 100 lbs. How? By changing her eating habits, having surgery, and being extremely disciplined. I have to admit, my eyes bugged out when I saw her. Then, I was inspired.
This friend said her knees no longer hurt. Where she had been seeing an orthopedic surgeon and was thinking of knee replacements, now she has no pain climbing stairs. That was enough for me. The thought of relieving knee and back pain and seeing her success sparked momentum in me.
2. Take a drastic step to break that habit
As a result, I decided to try a drastic strategy. I ordered a month’s worth of Nutrisystem meals. The calorie count of these three meals and one snack a day is WAY below what I normally eat, but as the commercials say, “You’re not hungry because your glycemic index stays constant.”
Well, whatever that means – it works. I have learned first hand that I will not go hungry, neglect my nutrition, or lose my mind while eating far less. This morning, I saw that I have already lost 10 pounds. And my attitude towards food has utterly changed. I want smaller portions and I don’t need to snack while doing something creative (like writing) due to nervous energy.
(By the way, I’m not a Nutrisystem spokesperson – this just worked for me. I will soon switch back to mostly fruits and vegetables – fresh food, but in small portions.)
3. Short term satisfaction vs. long term gain
It helps to think about what you want in the long run.
I read another article that relates to how to overcome strongholds, written by Dr. Michael Brown, in The Christian Post. Dr. Brown describes his own journey from 275 lbs. to 180 lbs. He says he feels so much better and has lowered his blood pressure and bad cholesterol, etc. But he had to change his thinking to break the stronghold of bad food choices and eating way too much.
He, too, named off a number of other situations where we give in to soothing ourselves in the wrong way: “overindulging in food or going into debt or disclosing a secret or having an affair, or committing a violent act because we couldn’t say “no” in the moment.” That craving for short term satisfaction makes us sabotage ourselves in the long run.
“We needed that release,” he continued, “That food tasted too good. We had to have that product. The secret was too juicy. The person was too attractive. Our anger was too strong.” Those are things we may tell ourselves to justify giving in to temptation.
Pulling down strongholds spiritually
The three steps above are a “natural world way” to start the process of pulling our strongholds down and making them a “pile of rubble.” But to be free of bad habits and addictions for good, and the “roots” that caused them, we need to have a spiritual transformation.
The Apostle Paul wrote about how to get free of bad thinking and the entrapping behavior that goes with it. He said in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 MEV:
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…”
We have spiritual weapons to take our poor thinking captive. We can replace it with good thinking, free and God-dependent thinking. Our weapons are prayer, the bible, and the Holy Spirit’s power. And more important than anything is that phrase, “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Jesus was the Perfect One, the innocent Lamb of God. Believing we are loved by Him and are freed by Him works wonders in tearing down our strongholds. Our focus on Him brings His liberating power into our minds and habits.
In addiction, overeating, and other strongholds
Having worked with addicts in recovery for many years, I know that people use drugs when they’re happy. “I needed to celebrate.” They use them when they’re miserable. “I was so sad, I just wanted to escape my feelings.” In rebellious moments, bored moments, angry moments, with physical pain, etc. they may use.
Eating is no different. “Let’s go out for a steak and celebrate.” “I’m so sad, I’m going to eat a carton of ice cream, or a bag of potato chips.
And of course, all sorts of stronghold behavior comes out at similar moments as people try to self-soothe or find release.
But how about this?
How about when you’re sad, pray and/or read the Bible. When you’re happy, pray and/or read the Bible. If you’re feeling unsure about what lies ahead, pray and/or read the Bible. Use those weapons not made of human hands instead of your stronghold behavior. It separates you from God.
These spiritual helps cause us to submit our lives to Christ. Jesus “takes the wheel” and gives us a life full of joy, meaning and freedom, not suppressed lives, where we’re stuck behind the walls of one or more strongholds through which the devil torments us.
Ice tea for me, please…
We CAN walk away from the things that have kept us bound. It is possible! So, just a final word from my friend, Tonya, who shared, “One year ago I had my last drink…”
What gave her motivation and momentum to take a drastic step was that she woke up in pain – Terrible abdominal, side, and back pain. She wondered if she had finally destroyed her liver by the last few decades of drinking.
Her pain lasted 4 days. The doctor couldn’t figure it out. But ironically, it was the doorway of escape into a much healthier life. She ended her post by saying, “I shared all of this personal stuff for one reason, you. If you see yourself in my story, I am sorry because that kind of sucks. But I am certain that if I can do it, you can do it. Figure out what your motivation is, then just get ONE day of momentum behind you.”
And then she closed with, “Trust me, the peace of mind and feeling that you are not being controlled is worth it and your body will thank you.”
Final word: a stronghold breaking Bible
I have many Bibles on my shelf, but there is one that is special for doing spiritual battle. It’s called the Spiritual Warfare Bible. In it are articles about spiritual warfare basics (like tearing down strongholds!), articles about God’s warriors, spiritual warfare prayers and more. If you would like to get a copy, you can find it here.
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Can God Help Me Not Give In? 5 Powerful Ways for Resisting Temptation
Can I Gain Victory Over Temptation? What is God’s Way Out?
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Thanks I have a strong hold of addiction alcohol comes from rejection abandonment loneliness etc please keep me in y’all prayers
Nedra, I hope you will think deeply about Tonya – my friend spoken about in the article. She had an alcohol addiction for decades but she began to find freedom step by step and now no longer drinks alcohol at all. She found freedom. I know you can too. I will keep you in my prayers. This is the year for you to walk out of your “cage,” Nedra. You can do this. Lord, I pray for complete freedom for Nedra. No more alcohol craving, no more alcohol usage in Jesus’ name. I will add you to my prayer list. Nedra, when you find freedom, will you write me back?